The Spitfire was designed as a short-range, high-performance interceptor aircraft by R. J. Mitchell, chief designer at Supermarine Aviation Works (which operated as a subsidiary of Vickers-Armstrong from 1928). Mitchell continued to refine the design until his death from cancer in 1937, whereupon his colleague Joseph Smith became chief designer. Where speed was seen as essential to carrying out the mission of home defence against enemy bombers, the Spitfire's thin cross-section elliptical wing allowed it a higher top speed than several contemporary fighters, including the Hawker Hurricane.
The Spitfire became the backbone of RAF Fighter Command, and saw action in the European, Mediterranean, Pacific and the South-East Asian theatres. Much loved by its pilots, the Spitfire served in several roles, including interceptor, photo-reconnaissance, fighter-bomber, carrier-based fighter, and trainer. It was built in many variants, using several wing configurations. Although the original airframe was designed to be powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine producing 1,030 hp (768 kW), it was adaptable enough to use increasingly more powerful versions of the Merlin and later Rolls-Royce Griffon engines producing up to 2,035 hp (1,520 kW).
- British Empire
- New Zealand
- Republic of China
- South Africa